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Best Intel processors 2021: the best CPUs from Team Blue

Included in this guide:

Best Intel processors
For years, the best Intel processors have been some of the best for gaming.

The best Intel processors are, from their most powerful to their newest, more than just a status symbol. While the AMD Vs Intel rivalry gets ever more intense, especially with all the quality chips AMD has been releasing, Intel’s top offerings are still the best of the best when putting together your own gaming PC. You can’t invest in much better processors than these.

With their high IPC (instructions per clock) performance and high clock speeds, the best Intel processors are among the most ideal options for gaming. But, they can do so much more. For professionals and content creators, Intel’s HEDT (high-end desktop) offerings, the Cascade Lake-X, bring incredible performance, though at an incredible price. In contrast, the Intel Comet Lake-S, is battling AMD’s Ryzen offerings for the hearts and minds of consumer desktop users.

Regardless of the type of CPU you need, there’s something for you in our round-up of the best Intel processors of 2021. That way, you can spend less time on research and more on getting your PC build put together. If you need a new motherboard, be sure to check out our best motherboards guide.

Intel Core i5-10600K

(Image credit: Intel)

1. Intel Core i5-10600K

Best Intel processor

Cores: 6
Threads: 12
Base clock: 3.5GHz
Boost clock: 4.7GHz
L3 cache: 64MB
TDP: 105W
Reasons to buy
+Excellent multi-core performance+Affordable+Good thermal performance
Reasons to avoid
-No PCIe 4.0-Higher power consumption

Mid-range buyers will appreciate the fact that they actually don’t have to shell out quite a bit of cash for Intel’s hyper-threading technology. With Intel’s Core i5-10600K offering, it’s possible to have it for much less than $500. This chip may lack PCIe 4.0 support and has a higher power consumption, but it makes up for those in spades. Besides hyper-threading, this processor also delivers superb multi-core performance as well as improved single-core performance. What’s more is that it’s got great thermals to keep that pesky heat down.

Read the full review: Intel Core i5-10600K

Intel Core i9-10900K

(Image credit: Intel)

2. Intel Core i9-10900K

Best Intel processor for high-performance

Cores: 10
Threads: 20
Base clock: 3.7GHz
Boost clock: 5.3GHz
L3 cache: 20MB
TDP: 125W
Reasons to buy
+Good single-core performance+Good thermal performance
Reasons to avoid
-High power consumption-No PCIe 4.0

While one of Intel’s more powerful 10th-generation chips has fallen behind AMD in multi-threaded performance, there’s no doubt that the Intel Core i9-10900K is an incredibly capable chip, especially when it comes to its single-core performance. It’s also a great improvement from its predecessor, with two extra cores, bringing the total to a whopping 10 cores and 20. If you’re an Intel fan and need an impressive processor to power your rig, this should more than satisfy your needs.

Read the full review: Intel Core i9-10900K

Intel Core i7-10700K

(Image credit: Intel)

3. Intel Core i7-10700K

Best for hyper-threading support

Cores: 8
Threads: 16
Base clock: 3.8GHz
Boost clock: 5.1GHz
L3 cache: 16MB
TDP: 125W
Reasons to buy
+Much improved over its predecessor+Hyper-threading
Reasons to avoid
-Not enough improvements if upgrading from previous generation

Regarded as among the best gaming CPUs on the market right now, the Intel Core i7-10700K not only offers hyperthreading, with 5.1Ghz overclocking on all its 8 cores, but it’s also takes the great things about the i9-9900K and improves on its failings with higher clock rates, better thermal performance and a more affordable price. It may require a beefier cooling solution, but it’s still the chip to beat if you’re looking to upgrade to the 10th-generation and have the money to spare.

Intel Pentium Gold G5400

(Image credit: Intel)

4. Intel Pentium Gold G5400

Best Intel processor on a budget

Cores: 2
Threads: 4
Base clock: 3.7GHz
Boost clock: N/A
L3 cache: 4MB
TDP: 58W
Reasons to buy
+Great on threaded workloads+Bundled cooler
Reasons to avoid
-No overclocking

Whether you’re building a home theater that doesn’t require a chip with a lot of power or you’re building a PC on a tight budget, the Pentium Gold G5400 is a good Intel processor to consider. With its new affordable price tag and a great light multi-threaded performance, this one is the best choice at its price point. Pair it with a powerful graphics card, and you’ll be good to go.

Intel Core i9-10980XE

(Image credit: Intel)

5. Intel Core i9-10980XE

Best HEDT Intel processor

Cores: 18
Threads: 36
Base clock: 3.0GHz
Boost clock: 4.6GHz
L3 cache: 24.8MB
TDP: 165W
Reasons to buy
+Tons of power+Thermals under control
Reasons to avoid
-Extremely expensive

With a sheer price drop, a higher boost clock and some performance improvements over the i9-9980XE, the Intel Core i9-10980XE is a truly worthy successor of the Extreme Edition line. That refined 14nm process not only affords it better performance, but also lower power consumption. Better yet, it has that sheer overclocking capabilities like no other. It’s still plenty next to its rival AMD chips, but if overclocking is a huge factor to you, this one’s worth its premium price tag.

Jackie Thomas

Jackie Thomas (Twitter) is TechRadar's US computing editor. She is fat, queer and extremely online. Computers are the devil, but she just happens to be a satanist. If you need to know anything about computing components, PC gaming or the best laptop on the market, don't be afraid to drop her a line on Twitter or through email.